Let’s celebrate nutrition! In case you haven’t heard, March is National Nutrition Month. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics takes this month each year to shine a brighter light on nutrition and the role it plays in our everyday lives. The ultimate goal is to help people make informed food choices, developing a balanced lifestyle including diet and physical activity. This year the theme of National Nutrition Month is Savor the Flavor of Eating Right.
One of the things that I love most about food and nutrition is the practicality and common bond that it brings. Food brings out different emotions in people and is often a great social event- even if it is just catching up over family dinner. Savor the Flavor of Eating Right is about more than just food. It is a call to take time to and enjoy the flavors, varieties, relationships and traditions that good food brings.
As science and nutrition education evolve, we continue to see the importance of the diet and lifestyle as a whole rather than pinpointing one food or food group as the culprit. As we Savor the Flavor of Eating Right, it is important to consider the how, when, why and where we choose to eat rather than only considering what we eat. What does the how, when, why and where of eating look like for you?
What are the habits of your eating? Eating out frequently? Eating in a rush while at your desk working? Eating standing up? Eating too fast or choosing to go slow? Eating in your car? Enjoying food with family or friends?
What is the timing and consistency of your meals? Are you too busy to eat regularly? Do you skip breakfast frequently? Do you snack all day or are there clear distinctions in your meal times?
As I said earlier, food can be tied to emotions and even social events. The why of eating: am I actually hungry? Am I bored? I am thirsty? Are you stressed? Happy? Influenced by others?
Do you eat at home as a family? In the car on the go? At the kitchen counter? In front of the TV? In front of the computer or at your desk at work?
Several of the scenarios above can lead to mindless eating, even overeating. Outlined below are a few small changes you and your family can make to improve the quality of your mealtimes.
Savoring the Flavor of Eating Right In Action
Most of us have busy schedules to balance which may inhibit the best food and eating choices 100 percent of the time. Don’t let this discourage you. Stopping to think about your eating is a great exercise. Set small, achievable goals for you and your family. If your family eats out most nights of the week (4 or more), make a goal to limit eating out to no more than 3 nights. Do the kids usually eat first and mom and dad catch up later? Make a goal of the entire family sitting down together at least 3 to 4 nights a week to share dinner. This is a great time to find out about important events of the day or things coming up later in the week. Lastly, include your spouse or kids in the meal planning! What are their favorite dishes? What flavors do they enjoy? Give each of them a chance to contribute an entrée or side dish to weekly meals that they love most.
Family meals have been and continue to be one of the things I cherish most. When I think of Savor the Flavor, I instantly think of foods I love and how I enjoy them. My favorite meal is a family staple for many: spaghetti and meat sauce. My mom made this regularly for us growing up, and now I find myself doing the same thing for my family. My mom always made the sauce from “scratch” with help from canned tomatoes and tomato sauce. The simple family favorite recipe is below:
- 1 lb lean ground hamburger meat (meat choice optional), browned and drained
- 1- 14.5 oz can Italian (basil, garlic, oregano) diced tomatoes
- 3- 8 oz cans tomato sauce, add or eliminate based on desired consistency (I usually choose the no salt added version and season on my own)
- Keep one can for water if desired
- ~2 Tbsp Italian Seasoning (to taste)
- 1 tsp minced garlic (to taste)
- Pinch of sugar
- Salt and Pepper to taste
(Recently I added less than 1 tsp of cumin. It gave the sauce a savory, warm flavor)
Tasty Sauce Assembly
Once you brown and drain the meat, return to the pan. At this time combine diced tomatoes and tomato sauce. I prefer a medium/chunky consistency as pictured above. Add or eliminate tomato sauce to achieve desired consistency. Using a ½ can of water will help thin if needed. At this time, I add in all of the seasonings and mix well. You may use a pinch of sugar to neutralize the acidity of the tomatoes if needed. Set stove to medium/low temperature allowing the sauce to simmer for 20-30 minutes.
I chose a 100% whole wheat penne pasta as my grain, but I often use whole wheat rotini or even bake a spaghetti squash. The smaller shaped pasta seems more manageable for my toddler. For the vegetable I roasted fresh asparagus (it is in season right now and it was delish!). Pair with a small fruit salad and you have an instant MyPlate meal!
What is your favorite meal? Is there a certain food that brings back great memories? With small modifications like choosing lean meats, whole grains, fresh veggies and fruits- you can easily make any food fit while Savoring the Flavor of Eating Right with your family and friends!
**During the month of March**
Do you or someone you know have diabetes? Several local grocery stores are teaming up with OneTouch to provide FREE grocery store tours to promote Healthy Eating with Diabetes. Emily will be leading two tours at the end of March in Rowlett and Mesquite. Click here for a details and a location near you!